Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Breast milk and prune juice...

Breast fed babies don't get constipated, I have been told. Infrequent stools does not necessarily mean constipation.

Last week, on Thursday, Ben mentioned that Nathan had not had a messy diaper since the previous weekend. He acted fine and was taking his bottle or nursing just fine, but no pooping. Ben wanted to know if I was sure that he had not pooped on Tuesday. I was sure. I notice that kind of thing.

So he talked to Jen on the phone, and she called the doc, just to see if there was something we should be doing. The first nurse or whoever she talked to told her not to worry, babies can frequently go five days between stools. She recommended that we get some prune juice, and put some in his bottle with the breast milk. Which made my eyebrows go up and my stomach clench.

When my three were little, the boys never had this problem. Becca sometimes did, but I think she was older than Nathan is when it started. We used suppositories - special ones for babies - which worked very well and within a very short time. I suggested to Ben that I could go out and get some. He didn't like that idea at all.

Now, I have to say right here that things have really changed since my kids were little. Doctors give parents very different advice now than they gave when I was having babies. Then, the recommendation was to put babies to sleep on their stomachs so they didn't accidentally aspirate in case they spit up while they were sleeping. Now all babies are supposed to be put down on their backs. It helps prevent SIDS. The wonderful walkers we had - little chair-and-table vehicles on wheels that helped keep kids confined and also helped them learn to walk - are no longer on the market. Too dangerous. High chairs now have five-point straps to tie kids in, and cribs have to have slats a specified distance apart. Car seats are mandated by law now. It's a wonder as many of us grew up as healthy as we did, since we didn't have all these safety rules in place.

Anyway, I want to do things to help Jen and Ben, and I do not want to dictate to them about what they should do. They love this baby as much as I loved mine, and they are getting the best and latest advice available. So I didn't push the suppository idea.

I went to WalMart and got some prune juice for Nathan. I probably should have looked in the infant department - I probably could have bought a small one-serving size bottle - but I didn't think of that. I bought a 48 ounce bottle of prune juice.

So when Nathan woke up from his nap, Ben and I talked about how to give him the juice. (I guess I should mention that Ben works at home in his office in the basement. So I am taking care of the baby, but most days Ben is there, working, downstairs.) We were supposed to add 1/2 teaspoon to his milk. We both wondered if he would take it willingly. This little 5 month old has had only breast milk and for the past several weeks, some rice cereal. Prune juice was going to be a shock. I was afraid if I added it to the full bottle, and he hated the taste, he might refuse to drink it. Then I would have wasted 6 ounces of breast milk, which Jen pumps and leaves for me to give him when she is at work. Ben agreed, so we got out an extra bottle, and put just 2 ounces of the milk in it, and added the juice to that. It looked strangely brown.

We both expected a strong reaction. Ben got out the camera, anticipating strange facial expressions. He was ready to document the drama. Nathan chugged down the brownish liquid as if it was what he was used to. We were amazed. Then he chugged the remaining 4 ounces of milk just as quickly. He was obviously hungry.

Now, let me emphasize, that for most of this time, Nathan has acted just fine. He was a bit cranky on Tuesday, not fussy but complaining rather than cooing. And his afternoon nap was only 45 minutes that day. But he has been happy and smiling and not distressed.

Nothing happened after the prune juice on Thursday. So on Friday, Ben and Jen conferred, and decided that I should give him more in his first bottle. I decided to just add it to the entire bottle, since he didn't seem to notice or object to the taste of the juice. I found some measuring spoons, used the one that had 1/2 on it, but noticed that the milk seemed as brown as it had the day before, when we had just put the juice in 2 ounces of milk. I wondered about it momentarily. He took it willingly and happily. Again, nothing happened.

On Friday after work Tom came to Ben's house, which he has been doing so he can spend some time with Nathan too. Jen was still concerned about the baby, and thought they might have to take him to see the doctor. She called the office, and spoke to someone who told her that babies can go up to 12 days without having a bowel movement, and as long as he was acting ok and eating ok, not to worry. She was also told that a warm bath, bicycling exercises with the baby's legs, prune juice, the insertion of an anal thermometer and suppositories could all be used if Nathan started to act distressed. He did not act distressed.

I came home Friday night, convinced that he would poop over the weekend.

Over the weekend I taked to my sister-in-law, Margie, who raised 3 kids of her own. I was telling her about our concerns. She said to put him into a snowsuit, and take him for a ride in the car. Her kids, she said, always exploded in their pants in the car, in the snowsuit, when they were ten or more miles away from home! We laughed.

Jen was home yesterday, Monday, since it was President's Day. Nathan did not have a messy diaper all weekend, or yesterday either.

Ben showed me this morning that I had used a measuring spoon that was actually 1/2 tablespoon, which is why the milk had looked so brown to me on Friday. It obviously hadn't hurt Nathan that I had given him 1/2 tablespoon rather than 1/2 teaspoon, but it hadn't helped either!

So, at Ben's suggestion, I gave him 1/2 teaspoon of juice in his milk again this morning. Again, he took it just fine. He doesn't even seem to notice! It still makes my stomach clench, but that's my problem, not his.

This afternoon, I put him down for his nap. He usually sleeps between 1 1/2 to 2 hours for me, but today he slept over 3 hours. I even asked Ben if he thought I should wake him. He said no, and Nathan woke up a little while after that. No explosion, no leaking out of the diaper and all over everything. But Nathan did have a really stinky, very soft load in his diaper. No distress. In fact, he seemed very mellow and pleased with himself.

Which proves that healthy breast-fed babies can, indeed, go for many days without having a bowel movement. Nathan never was bothered or concerned about any of this. Just the adults were. I guess I'll bring the prune juice home with me on Thursday. Ben and Jen won't drink it. Tom and I will. But NOT mixed in milk.

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